Colorados population kept growing last year with help from immigration

Stronger international immigration after the easing of pandemic restrictions helped boost population gains in the U.S. and Colorado during the past year, but growth overall remains subdued, according to newly released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“There was a sizeable uptick in population growth last year compared to the prior year’s historically low increase,” said Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau, in a news release. “A rebound in net international migration, coupled with the largest year-over-year increase in total births since 2007, is behind this increase.”

The U.S. added 1.25 million residents in the 12 months through July 1, bringing the nation’s total population to 333,287,557. Colorado’s population stood at an estimated 5,839,926 people as of July 1, which represents an annual gain of 28,629 or in percentage terms a gain of 0.49%.

While that remains ahead of the U.S. population growth rate of 0.4%, it is a fraction of the annual percentage gains seen last decade, when Colorado regularly added 70,000 or more people a year. Colorado, once a leader among states for its population growth rate, ranked 19th overall, between New Hampshire and Alabama.

“Colorado’s population growth increased very slightly. However, I would say that we saw several states, 25, slow down this year relative to last year. So, I don’t think Colorado is an outlier with a small increase between years,” said State Demographer Elizabeth Garner.

Florida was the nation’s fastest-growing state in 2022 for the first time since 1957, with a percentage increase in its population of 1.9%. Idaho, which has gone on a growth spurt in recent years, clocked a gain of 1.82%, followed by South Carolina at 1.72%. Texas, South Dakota, Montana, Delaware and Arizona were other states at the top of the ranking.

Eighteen states lost population in 2022, compared to only 15 in 2021, with the biggest total losses coming in California and Illinois as more people moved out than moved in. A net 343,230 people left California and 141,656 left Illinois. In percentage terms, the biggest population losses last year came in New York, Illinois, Louisiana, West Virginia and Hawaii.

The pandemic slowed U.S. population growth by worsening an already declining birth rate and boosting the number of deaths, especially among the elderly. Restrictions also reduced international immigration, but the latest report shows a rebound is underway there and in births.

Colorado had 63,086 births and 49,381 deaths in the year ending July 1, which resulted in a “natural increase” of 13,705, which was below last year’s natural increase. Even though births increased by about 1,000 the past year, that gain was more than offset by an added 3,000 or so deaths, Garner said.

Still, half of U.S. states saw more deaths than births, and Colorado reported the 7th largest natural increase in the country, she said.

International migration increased this past year in Colorado to 10,366, a significant jump from the prior year’s gain of 3,914. Domestic migration was steady, with 5,300 this year and 5,600 last year, Garner said.

“In both years it was about 1% of the U.S. international migration. So the share of international migration did not change between years,” Garner said.

Colorado’s population gains have trended lower every year since 2018, and the gains seen last year are under a third of the population gains seen in 2015. Higher housing costs are often cited as a key reason for that slowdown. A lack of affordable housing makes the state less attractive to young adults looking to relocate. It also can cause young couples already living here to delay starting a family.

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